Few car launches have created as much stir as the Jaguar
F-Type. Perhaps it’s not so surprising, given the iconic status of its predecessor the famous E-type and the fact that we have had to wait 39 years for the follow-up!
But, here it was, in all its glory. A Jaguar F-Type V6S sitting on my driveway.
It was predictable that some of the previous aborted designs for an F-Type sought to pick up where the icon left off, by aping the E-type’s most distinctive feature – its oval air intake.
On Ian Callum’s design such obvious retro features are absent and the result is thoroughly modern in appearance. But, this is still clearly a Jaguar.
With the coupé just about to be unveiled in Los Angeles, all current F-types are convertibles and there are just three cars in the range. My test car was the middle-of-the-range Jaguar F-type V6S. At 380PS it produces 40PS more than the base model from its supercharged three-litre and, at £67,520, it costs £4,209 more.
For that premium you are getting considerably more than just a power boost. The steering, chassis settings, suspension and brakes are all tuned to give the car sharper, more sporty responses. With a mechanical limited-slip differential and Dynamic Drive system, the V6S is a more focussed enthusiast’s car than the V6.
The 0-60 mph time drops from 5.1 on the V6 to 4.8 for the V6S and Jaguar say this model will go on to 100mph in just 8.8 seconds – quicker than most cars can get to 60mph.
Part of the secret of the F-Type’s performance is that it makes full use of Jaguar’s expertise in aluminium structures to keep its weight down. A graphic illustration of this comes when you open the big bonnet – the look of surprise underlines how light it is.
Take a look around the F-type and you see that there is not a lot of spare space. The supercharged V6 really fills the bonnet space, although there must be room available for the top-of-the-range V8.
Inside space is good for driver and passenger, but that is it. There are no rear seats, not even a shelf.
There’s not much space in the back either. Although the figures show 20% more luggage space than you get in a Mini, the shape is less useful. You will need some careful packaging to fit in the requirements for a weekend for two.
The cockpit is thoroughly modern. With electrical adjustment for just about every aspect (including how tightly the bolsters hug you) it is quite easy to get comfortable snuggled down behind the chunky steering wheel.
You select your driving mode with a switch on the centre console, including “sport” and “sport+”. The latter sharpens things up even more and turns off the traction-control. But, you need to be pretty sure you know what you are doing before you turn off driver aids. There are 375 horses under that bonnet ready to bite you.
In place of the rotary gear selector of Jaguar saloons, the F-type has a more conventional joy-stick selector along with paddles on that perfectly proportioned steering wheel.
Turn the starter and, just like the Jaguar XKR-S
I tested some months ago, the engine has a automatic throttle blip so that it starts with a little bit of a growl and a few pops from the exhaust. Pure theatre.
The give-away is the fact that the F-type is thoroughly modern in having a stop-start system and, yes, you’ve guessed – when it restarts in traffic there is no flourish, the engine just quietly restarts!
It is clear that the design team have recognised that sound quality is almost as important as looks for a sports car. You do wonder how many man hours have gone into tuning the F-Type to perfection. Maybe this was another reason to launch the F-Type in convertible form first? Putting the roof down is the only way to enjoy the sound quality to its full!
Fortunately, the F-type is remarkably useable with the roof down, even in the chill of autumn. Wind turbulence inside is kept to a minimum and the climate system is more than capable of produced wafts of warming air to keep away the chill, you can even turn on the steering wheel heat to keep fingers up to temperature! Should a shower disturb your fresh air motoring, the hood can be quickly raised at speeds up to 30mph.
On the dry roads that I was fortunate to have for most of my time with the F-Type, I found the “sport” mode was very satisfactory and I had little urge to switch to “sport+”. These lurid slides you see regularly on programmes like Top Gear
may look spectacular, but they scrub off not only copious quantities of tyre rubber, but speed also.
What is so satisfying about the F-type is that it is happy to purr along in traffic but always ready to deliver its performance instantly and gloriously at a touch of the throttle. The ability to overtake in an instant and get back to your own side of the road is an often-overlooked safety feature.
The suspension seems to manage to be taut but mostly well damped. You can feel it working hard to follow the road undulations, but only some of this movement is translated to the cabin. It is only on the poorest of surfaces that the F-type feels choppy.
During my days with the F-Type I became more and more determined to find a good day to try some of my favourite roads. On a sunny autumn afternoon, with the roof down, I slotted the F-type into sports setting and took the road from Donside over to Royal Deeside in Aberdeenshire.
It’s a great mountain road with sweeping bends punctuated by steep grades and tight corners. Just the sort of test for a car like this.
There are no houses anywhere close to the mountain section, so I pressed the centre console button that opens the exhaust valves and pointed the bonnet up the hill.
The F-Type was in its element. Romping up the hills with its ample reserves of power, following the undulations and gripping the tarmac tenaciously and confidently.
At the apex of each corner, opening the throttle brought that thrilling rasp and roar from the back, while braking for tight corners dropped the eight-speed box down a gear to the accompaniment of evocative crackles and popping from the exhaust.
Progress was quick, but where some more highly-strung sports cars would be quite hard work, the F-type just took this challenging road in its stride.
Perhaps that’s why I did not want this road to end. The memories of these sunlit miles on that mountain road will remain with me for a long time.
For a driver’s car that is the best-possible recommendation. Specification
Combined mpg 31
CO2 emissions 213 g/km
top speed 171 mph
0-60 4.8 secs
Boot capacity 196 litres